Just about two years ago, I penned a post that laid out, in some detail, how I think about investing and working with companies, as well as the engagement model at IA Ventures. While much of what I wrote then still applies today, I have definitely gained some clarity around those founders with whom I work best, and how we as a partnership have sharpened our approach for engaging with portfolio companies over time.
What I’ve finally learned over these past nine years is that when I divorce logic from passion, my investment decisions aren’t nearly as good. We are a very cerebral team, and for my part I can over-intellectualize and talk myself into stuff if I’m not careful. I can create a compelling narrative for almost any good idea, so it is especially important to tap into those truths that lie below the surface that sometimes get obscured by “logic”. The fact is that there are founders and businesses for whom I’m best suited and vice versa, and these reside at the intersection of interest and passion.
Passionate; intense; painfully honest; caring; occasionally impatient; aspirational; relentless; and possessing a growth-mindset. This is my product. It involves *real* partnership, and means getting an investor who spends the time on the hard stuff, is deeply engaged, is going to give feedback both orally and in writing and is someone who’ll gladly instigate a spirited back-and-forth on strategy and tactics in an environment of safety and respect. If our interests and vision for building a company align, and this type of investor engagement is what you’re seeking to be your best self, then I may be a good fit for you. To be clear, I’m not the best investor for certain people and businesses (and vice versa), and that’s a.o.k. But building a company is hard enough without clashes of chemistry and disagreements in philosophy, and I’m done thinking that a big and accessible TAM with a good product vision is enough to generate a world-changing company. There are just too many variables at play and too many obstacles to overcome, and if you don’t have a trusting and functional relationship with your partner, even in a market with huge tailwinds and massive opportunity, it just sucks. Life is way, way too short.
As for my interests, they’re pretty much the same. All manner of financial services (Octane Lending, Simple, Singifyd, TransferWise). Businesses that leverage and make Big Data functional (InfoSum, Recorded Future, Sight Machine, The Trade Desk). Some select health care (Robin Healthcare). Over the past two years I’ve led four new investments (in order of when I made the investment):
Debtsy (incubation, Seed)
Robin Healthcare (Seed)
Gospel Technology (early Series A)
This pretty much covers my array of interests and the different stages of engagement. The current investments I’m working on include a healthy dose of UK and Western European-based companies in addition to NYC, the Bay Area and even one in Israel. I now have three core investments in the UK (Gospel Technology, InfoSum and TransferWise), and have seen the London and Scandinavian ecosystems produce an array of companies in the areas I’m interested in. I like what I like. If you’re very early, thinking big, dreaming about winner-take-all markets and dominant strategies, and want an investor who’ll roll up their sleeves and really be your partner, then drop me a note with your stuff. I’d love to learn more.